Shiny Object Syndrome is evil.
This is something you have probably heard over and over again. If you search the subject, you will read all kinds of advice on how to stop shiny object syndrome, how to become more focused, and even how to shut down projects so you can hone in on what's working.
Well, I'm here to provide a different perspective.
I'm HAPPY I've given in to my “weaker” side and gone after lots of shiny business “objects” over the years. I'm not a productivity genius. I'm terrible at focusing on one project at a time, and I've started plenty of businesses that were a complete flop.
However, despite all of that, I've still managed to quit my job nearly 6 years ago from my six figure a year niche site business, I recently sold my software company for over 7 figures, and today I run a high six figure a year ecommerce business. Oh yeah, and I have several other businesses that I run or am involved with as well. (And all of that doesn't even include this very blog and brand your are visiting right now…NichePursuits.com).
Business ideas are the shiny objects for me, and quite frankly I'm sick of all the negative advice about seeing a new idea and getting excited about it.
Excitement and passion are what drive success. If a business idea is “shiny” to you…you just might want to think long and hard about turning your nose at the opportunity by being a good little boy or girl that is always focused on the task at hand.
You could be missing out on something big.
Now, you could obviously take this advice too far. If you never COMPLETE a single project, you are just building half bridges that never get you anywhere. There is a big difference here. Complete a project and give it a shot in the wild, but don't feel obligated to keep putting good money and hours into a project that may not be working, may not be as valuable as something else might be, or feel like you have to spend all you time on something even when it is a success (i.e. considering hiring a replacement for yourself).
Now with that savory little morsel of an introduction, let's jump into the whole shiny enchilada.
Why Shiny Objects are Good
The very meaning of the word motivation, describes why shiny objects are good. According to Merriam Webster dictionary, motivation is defined by: “the condition of being eager to act or work : the condition of being motivated.”
Shiny objects actually get you off your lazy behind and DO something. They are motivating. For many people, this is a very good thing.
I can't tell you how many people I've talked to that wished they ran a successful online business. When I asked them if they've ever tried, or even bought a domain name, they usually say “no”.
The desire to simply run a general side business is not motivating enough for many people to actually put in a little bit of work and do it. However, sometimes when the stars align, a shiny glare reflects off a SPECIFIC idea that sparks something inside of people.
The light bulb goes on, the shiny object appears, the fire is lit inside of them…and they become motivated. People finally stop reading, and start doing.
Passion and motivation are HUGE driving forces, and anything you can do to stimulate this type of action is a great thing…and that includes checking out the latest shiny object.
I personally tend to get excited about trying out new business ideas, and generally speaking, that has turned out to be a good thing for me.
For example, I started my Amazon FBA business about 2 years before I sold my software company. Perhaps you could make the argument that if I had focused 100% of my effort and energy on growing Long Tail Pro (it grew significantly every year I owned it anyway), I could have sold it for a higher price.
But I could also make the argument that if I hadn't started my Amazon FBA business 2 years, my income would be significantly less today after selling my business.
The other upside to pursuing additional business ideas is the income diversity. If my software company had failed for some reason, I would still have my eCommerce business. If my eCommerce business fails for some reason, I still have my niche websites, etc.
In general, if you look at what business ventures you pursue as a portfolio approach, the negative stigma of chasing shiny objects may not be so bad after all.
When Shiny Objects Become Bad
Now that I've hopefully provided a little bit of a paradigm shift, I do need to add a word of caution.
Just because pursuing shiny objects can be good sometimes, doesn't mean that you always should. In particular, if you are the type of person that only gets 25% or 50% of the way through a project and then changes course to something new all the time…then you might have a problem.
If you never give your new business idea the opportunity to even exist in the marketplace, how can you be so sure that the new NEW shiny object will ever get completed either?
So unfortunately, here's a typical scenario. First you hear about building niche sites, so you get really excited (a good thing!) for 3 weeks as you buy a domain, do keyword research, and write your first article. But then you hear about selling eBooks with simple Facebook funnels and you stop the niche site idea.
After a few weeks dabbling with the infopreneur idea, you hear about someone making a KILLING with simple iPhone apps. Apps are the way of the future you know!
So, before finishing your ebook idea, you start looking into the iPhone app idea.
Unfortunately, this is an all too common problem for people seeking out their next big idea. If you are only building half the bridge and never completing your projects, you'll never make it to the other side (income).
If this describes you at all, then perhaps you need to take a step back and assess the situation. How can you both harness the excitement of shiny objects, but not sabotage yourself by never completing a project?
How to Stay Shiny and Productive (Plus an Example)
One of the problems that many people have is that they go into new projects with reckless abandon, they don't have a timeline or budget set. Simply putting these 2 things in place can help you stay on track and be much more productive.
So, is it really possible to try out multiple shiny objects (new ideas) and still be productive? Well, let me give you an example of a company that is doing both.
Perhaps you've heard of, DigitalMarketer.com. Ryan Deiss and Perry Belcher are almost the epitomy of individuals with shiny object syndrome. If you were to take a look at the TONS of businesses that these guys are involved with, it becomes mind boggling.
DigitalMarketer.com has dozens of employees. But they also run NativeCommerce.com – which is a portfolio of sites in various niches. These sites include things like SurvivalLife.com (which makes over $1 million per month), MakeupTutorials.com and HowtoInvestYourMoney.com…and MANY other sites.
Oh and they own Hong Kong Tailors…yep a suit making business.
Oh…and the latest I heard (at Traffic and Conversion Summit), they were considering opening their own retail stores.
So, the team behind Digital Marketer certainly proves that you don't have to just focus on one thing to be successful. They see shiny objects all over the place and have gotten really good at developing systems to make them successful.
I should mention, that their 3rd partner, Roland Frasier is really the one that has put some discipline into their business by developing these systems. It seems like if things were left up to Ryan and Perry, they would be like kids in a candy store and end up just making themselves sick.
As previously mentioned, I am in a similar boat with my own business (yet at a MUCH smaller scale). I enjoy chasing various business ideas and it's worked out well for me.
However, you need to have a plan.
First, set a timeline for how long you are going to devote to a new project…before you start another project. So, you might decide that you are going to give yourself 2 months or 6 months to work on a project and then decide at that point if its worth pursing further.
Next, set a budget. How much money are you willing to invest in this idea?
I think this is a critical step that many people don't consider. Is it a few hundred dollars or a few thousand dollars?
Once you determine your budget and your timeline, you need to stick with it. Don't get half way through a project and then suddenly switch gears. This just wont give you the data that you need to really determine if the idea is worth pursuing further.
As you start to earn more money, the problem of shiny objects can become bigger or smaller depending on how you look at it.
On one hand, if you have more money you can pursue multiple projects at once by hiring. In a simplistic example, you can build 2 niche sites at once instead of just one if you can hire people to essentially build the site for you.
In this sense, money can be a good thing.
On the other hand, you can still spread yourself too thin (in both terms of time and money) if you start working on so many projects at once that it becomes overwhelming.
So, once again it comes down to setting a budget and schedule. If you have the budget for the project (which includes hiring help), then perhaps you should go after the idea. If you don't have the money for it; wait until you do.
Overall, I think the negative stigma that comes with “shiny object syndrome” is completely overblown. The problem doesn't lie in the fact that you get excited about new projects.
You should harness this excitement and power and use it
to save the world to grow your business! The times when you are motivated are the times that you should sit down and develop your plans, your budget, and your schedule.
Then stick to it.
The real problem with chasing too many projects at once is that you often never give them a chance. Before the project is complete you've moved onto something new.
So, by all means, you have my permission to work on multiple projects at once…but only if you can afford to invest the needed time and money to see it through to completion. And if your plan and execution works out like you hope, you just might have a few home run businesses on your hands.
I'd love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to leave a comment below.